Too much sitting is bad for your health! In fact, some people go so far as to say that sitting is the new smoking. There are definitely some similarities between smoking and too much sitting. For one, both using tobacco and leading a sedentary lifestyle up your risk for heart disease and other health problems. Here are some steps you can take to stop sitting so much. Plus, find out why it’s so important.
There’s More to Exercise Than Cardio
To boost health and prevent disease, I encourage clients to engage in four broad types of physical activity. Most people are familiar with cardio or aerobic exercise like fast walking, biking and swimming. They know about strength training such as lifting weights and doing push-ups. A lot of people don’t want anything to do with strength training, but at least they know about it. And most people are aware that stretching their muscles usually feels good and helps to improve mobility.
The one that’s often a surprise is reducing sedentary behavior. All that means is to stop sitting so much and to find movement in your everyday activities. Studies that link sedentary behavior to poor health and early death are piling up. And this is true even for people who exercise regularly. Thirty to 60 minutes a day of exercise just isn’t enough to wipe out the hazards of too much sitting. The activities of your workday and leisure time matter quite a bit.
A recent study supported by the American Cancer Society finds that too much sitting is tied to early death in 14 diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Why Does Too Much Sitting Harm Your Health?
The reasons may be related to weight gain, but there are also other metabolic derangements. For example, when healthy volunteers with normal blood sugar levels cut their daily steps from more than 10,000 to less than 5,000 for a mere three days, they experienced greater blood sugar spikes after eating. Some scientists speculate that prolonged inactivity suppresses some muscle enzymes, which may affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels. And when we sit leisurely without contracting our muscles, less glucose shifts from the blood into the muscle cells.
Get Out of The Chair
Stop sitting so much! To prevent diabetes or to manage it, the American Diabetes Association recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with 3-minute breaks every half hour. If you have a sitting job, you’re going to have to put on your creativity hat. In those 3 minutes, do push ups against the wall, lunge, squat, walk or do activity that suits you. I really do love my treadmill desk. If you have the space for a treadmill desk, do consider it.
Are You an Active Couch Potato?
In other words, are you sedentary most of the day other than during your formal exercise period? While you may know how many minutes a day you jog or lift weights, most of us can’t quantify our sedentary time. We might be quite inactive outside of formal exercise time and not even realize it. It’s easy to confuse being busy with being physically active.
When are you sitting for more than 30 minutes at a stretch? After you’ve identified the times that you sit for prolonged periods, brainstorm ideas to be less sedentary. Here are some ideas to get you started.
How to Stop Sitting Too Much At Work
- Stand up each time you sip water, coffee or tea
- Stand up each time the phone rings
- Walk to your co-workers’ desks instead of calling or emailing them
- Set a timer to remind you at regular intervals to do toe raises, squats and push-ups against the wall
- Use the bathroom that’s farthest from you.
How to Stop Sitting Too Much At Home
- Relax with active activities instead of sedentary activities
- Walk, play active video games, play catch with the kids
- Walk, stretch, squat or lunge during TV commercials
- Stand during TV credits
- Walk for three minutes after reading one chapter
- Let your dog in and out instead of asking a family member to do it
- Walk leisurely on a treadmill while reading or watching TV
Just like we have cues to sit — think comfy chairs and couches — we can create our own cues to be less sedentary. Dust off your stationary bike or treadmill and move it to a room you spend lots of time in. At home, lace up your sneakers to make movement more comfortable. At work, schedule a walking meeting instead of a sitting meeting. If you want to add a few minutes of exercise into your day, simply spreading out a yoga mat or moving hand weights onto the floor earlier in the day might do the trick.
Get out of the chair and off of the couch! Stand, walk, stretch. Repeat.